James Forsyth

Engaging our academics

Engaging our academics
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Mary Dejevsky writes today on one of my favourite topics, why aren’t British academics more engaged in policy debates. Where is the British Greg Mankiw or Paul Krugman? It is crazy that we have four of the 10 best universities in the world, but that our academics play such a limited role in public life and policy debates.

There’s plenty of blame to go round for this. Government departments are too unwilling to ask for outside advice and our political parties do a bad job of tapping academia for ideas. But, I think, the biggest problem is our academics. Far too many of them view policy as beneath them and any contact with government or politicians as contaminating.

Changing this culture will not be easy. But there are ways it can be done. For instance, the Research Assessment Exercise could take into account contributions to policy debates, advice given to government departments and the like. There also could be prestigious fellowships created to allow academics to do a year in government.

It is telling that when one thinks of the main academic influences on the likely next government of this country, they are nearly all American academics. Britain needs a proper ideas infrastructure.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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